Happy to Ring Out 2022 – Happy New Year 2023!
Mayor Tom Butt
2022 was my last year (except 10 days in January) of over 27 years on the Richmond City Council, including eight years as mayor.
Special thanks to those who supported me politically all those years as well as those whom I appointed to City boards and commissions and have served so productively to make Richmond a better place.
There are dozens of current and former City employees at every level who have helped make my journey both successful and satisfying. I won’t try to name everyone, but some who stand out are Bill Lindsay, Steven Falk, Chris Magnus, Bisa French, Richard Mitchell, Pam Christian, all of the Mayor’s Office staff, and many others.
In What Will You Do Now, and a Mayor's Accomplishments and Regrets, November 5, 2022, I summarized some of what we accomplished during those 27+ years.
While I leave with a sense of accomplishment, I do not leave with a sense that the City of Richmond is in good hands. See The End of the Road, December 21, 2022.
Other than the RPA completely taking over the City Council (and of course, the City of Richmond), what scares me most is a city attorney who I believe is corrupt and incompetent and has expanded the city attorney’s authority far beyond what the Charter envisioned.
Articles IV, Section C of the Charter simple states:
Sec. 3. Attorney. The Attorney shall act as the legal adviser of the Council and any officer of the City who requests his advice. He shall prepare all ordinances and contracts whenever required so to do by the Council. He shall prosecute all violators of the City ordinances and shall represent the City in all actions.
The city attorney has taken over many responsibilities traditionally exercised by others, including land planning and real estate negotiations. Since he is a contract city attorney, he uses staff in his private firm to provide legal services for the City, with no third-party oversight of scope and fees. He leads the City into litigious situations and then enriches his firm and himself providing the legal services to defend or pursue the litigation – a really sweet deal.
The year 2022 started on a sour note with the City Council spending hundreds of thousands of dollars suing me, encouraged by the former city attorney, Thresa Stricker, and later, Dave Aleshire, after taking action in late 2021 to adopt resolutions condemning statements made by me (twice), censuring me and ultimately authorizing legal action. This was after spending another $100,000 illegally investigating me, a witch hunt that went nowhere.
In January, an arrogant and incompetent assistant city attorney locked me out of a meeting but was later forced to apologize.
While my City Council colleagues and the city attorney were busy investigating, condemning, censuring and suing me, my real peers elected me to chair the Contra Costa Mayors Conference for 2022, and I continued to chair MCE, which provides half a million accounts in four counties with clean energy at a cost of over half a billion dollars. I also continued to serve as a board member, director or commissioner on WCCTAC, CCTA, BCDC, ABAG, LAFCO and CivicWell. Since RPA City Council members have taken little interest in regional government agencies, Richmond will be left without representation for the first time in decades with my departure.
Fed up with the waste, lack of accountability and incompetence of the homeless programs run by the RPA controlled City Council, I partnered with the Richmond Rotary Club to use funds accumulated in the Mayor’s Community Fund to provide housing for families, mostly single moms, stuck at the dangerous and unhealthy Rydin Road and Castro RV camps.
During 2022, the City Council managed to sell Point Molate for $400, leaving an uncertain future and the end of City control over the 30% of the land area – the portion deemed developable. Today, Point Molate remains fenced off and accessible only to vandals pillaging and destroying its historic infrastructure.
While crime, sideshows, trash on public streets, homelessness and street sweeping remained priories of most people, the RPA City Council members pursued their own feel-good priorities like a public bank, reduced police force, onerous business taxes, curtailment of street sweeping, tolerance of sideshows and reimagining public safety.
When the November 2022 election dust settled, the RPA, with support ofonly25% of registered voters, had run the table, electing two candidates and a mayor to take unprecedented control over the City Council. See District 2 Election, December 24, 2022.
As the last act of 2022, the City sold Terminal 1 for $500,000 with a controversial project that no one liked except the developer. On December 29, 2022, the city attorney ignored me and called in the vice-mayor to sign the papers, a direct violation of the Charter. We’ll see how that goes.
For a photo summary of 2022, click here.